Sangeetha Murali is a Software Engineer - VP at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Sydney. In this role, Sangeetha is responsible for leading the team in working innovatively to create solutions that advances businesses and careers.
What are your thoughts in general on gender diversity in the Financial Services or Fintech industries?
In Australia, I think there is decent diversity, at least compared to before. I haven’t really seen any issues personally, but I still see less women in the technical space. One of the reasons for women to step back could be issues of flexibility and perception of a high pressure technology work environment. For example, I was rather hesitant to ask to work part time, as this is a deadline-oriented environment and worried about the possible consequences of working less hours. But generally, I do think the opportunities are there for everyone to pursue, regardless of how you work.
Going off on the point of flexibility, can you share more about that with us? What has it been like in your career journey?
I was quite concerned about the difficulty to manage my work in IT before I had a baby, but I’m lucky not to have encountered many challenges on that front. In the IT world, there is always a concern about navigating issues like flexibility and openness. Considering a project and goal oriented workplace like this, whether you have the understanding to support you through your life journey and different work styles is important.
For example, back at Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) where I had my maternity leave, they have quite a few programs focused on flexibility and gender diversity. The forward-thinking nature of the company on top of the different processes in place help create a more embracing culture, one that I was grateful to be a part of.
Every now and then, I would hear from friends about the difficult scenarios that they’ve been in. Sometimes people treat you differently when you start working part time or when you contribute less hours. But when you have kids, things are different, and sometimes they get difficult, especially for young parents. Therefore that flexibility and understanding in the workplace goes a long way.
If you could go back to when you were just beginning your career, what advice would you give yourself?
Don’t worry too much, believe in yourself and your ability to achieve. And working less hours doesn’t mean you are contributing less. Having a work life balance is important to overall wellbeing.
Since we are talking about work life balance, any advice on how we can better achieve that?
I think progressing towards a work life balance is a part of growing up as a woman and working on our own mentality to not be affected when we work less hours is an important step. Sometimes we don’t do as much for our career at the same time as our family, and that is alright, as long as we give it our all and contribute 100%, be it at work or at home.
It helps learning from other successful females too, especially those that have gone through a similar journey.
What do you think are the benefits to having a diverse team?
Diversity brings in different views and different ways of working, which more than often complement each other. From my experience, differences in backgrounds bring in different ways of approaching problems and projects, which come together and help move things forward in a better way.
Having a diverse team also helps create a positive vibe and make everyone feels welcomed. If you know that you are welcomed, it makes it easier to fit in, and eventually it brings the best out of everyone.
Lastly, any advice for leaders or companies to create a more diverse atmosphere?
The answer to this question is twofold.
First of all, in terms of recruitment, look into a more diverse pool of talent. While it is not necessary to recruit solely for diversity reasons, it is important to have a more diversified pool to pick from and not limit ourselves to candidates of certain groups.
It is also crucial to grow internally and have initiatives that encourage employees. Having an open mind about flexibility and the ability to adapt to different people’s way of working would be key. From my personal experience, whether a company has that understanding makes a lot of difference. Working part time not only gave me a better balance, but also helped keep my career as a focus while taking care of my family. Flexible working is increasingly popular nowadays, things like working from home and flexible working hours. And with the proper technology that enables employees to work remotely, it would definitely contribute to a positive balance, one that I have come to appreciate and am sure would help in creating a more diverse environment.